Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Inaugural recipients of the Prof. A.A. MacKenzie Prize named

May 16th, 2019
L-r, John Blackwell; award recipients Hannah Krebs and Chelsey MacPherson; Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell; and StFX Celtic Studies Department chair Dr. Michael Linkletter

StFX Celtic studies students Hannah Krebs of Hensall, ON, and Chelsey MacPherson of Lochiel, ON, are the inaugural recipients of the Prof. A. A. MacKenzie Prize. This prize is awarded to the student who has earned a first-class mark in Celtic Studies 332: The Scots in North America and demonstrated a commitment to the preservation of the history of the Gael in Canada. 

This prize was recently established by Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell and John Blackwell to commemorate the memory of Prof. A. A. “Tony” MacKenzie, who taught Canadian history at St. Francis Xavier University from 1967 to 1991. Dr. Stanley-Blackwell and Mr. Blackwell say the much-loved professor was not a typical academic. His business card read: “Families Researched, Folktales Related, Whiskey Tested.”  

According to Dr. Stanley-Blackwell, “Professor MacKenzie was born in New Glasgow in 1926, the son of Angus “Dux” MacKenzie and Annie MacEachern. Named after Father A. A. Johnston, he was raised on the family farm in Pictou County. His parents attended StFX after World War 1, so his connections with Antigonish and the university were strongly forged.” She further recalls, “His education took him from a one-room schoolhouse in Egerton to StFX (BA 1947) to Dalhousie University (MA 1969). His life followed many paths, including such occupations as farmer, telephone lineman, factory hand, school teacher, genealogist, author, and university professor.” 

“Professor MacKenzie was a treasure trove of local lore and believed that much of the fabric of history was home-spun,” Mr. Blackwell states. He is best known for such works as The Irish in Cape Breton, The Harvest Train, Scottish Lights, and The Neighbours are Watching. A champion of the Gaelic language and a consummate storyteller, Prof. MacKenzie could expound on everything from Chestnut canoes to dry fly fishing, British Fabian ideology and recipes for Cattawaba wine, Millionnaire’s Bannock and Sissiboo Smelts.   

“His stories were not just told, they were performed,” Dr. Stanley-Blackwell observes. “One-time president of the Clan MacKenzie Society of Nova Scotia, he treated his vast circle of friends and admirers like an extended family, or as ‘caraid dhomb fhéin,’ as he was wont to say.”  

Ms. Krebs, a recent honours Celtic studies graduate, has worked at the Highland Village Museum for the past two summers. In 2017-2018, she studied Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and is editor of Naidheachdan is Tachartasan Gàidhlig na h-Albann Nuaidhe/Nova Scotia Gaelic News & Events. She is currently a board member of the Gaelic Council and has participated in the Daltachas and Cum Sios programs sponsored by Gaelic Affairs. 

A Celtic studies student, Ms. MacPherson has assisted at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum, organized local waulking demonstrations, and digitized Gaelic material at the Glengarry County Archives. She also edits the Gaels of Glengarry Magazine and maintains the blog, Aig Mo Mhàthair a Chuala Mi E. As the recipient of a Gaelic Language Learning Bursary from Gaelic Affairs, she is headed to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in September to study Gaelic. 


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